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Toledo’s mayoral candidates jousted over declining real estate values, the demolished Ravine Park pool, and the future of the Marina District in a forum Thursday in the East Toledo Senior Center.
A strong sense of East Toledo pride emerged in the questions, and candidate D. Michael Collins won a round of applause when he vowed East Toledo won’t be neglected if he is elected Nov. 5.
“East Toledo is part of Toledo and not a stepchild who identifies itself with a ZIP code,” said Mr. Collins, a political independent and District 2 city councilman. He criticized the Bell administration’s demolition of the Ravine Park Pool.
“You will see a new dimension. You will see a private-public partnership to bring recreation to East Toledo, West Toledo, North Toledo, and South Toledo,” Mr. Collins said.
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He suggested he would have used the $5 million surplus that Mr. Bell often cites to build a new Ravine Park pool.
Mayor Mike Bell repeated that every part of the city is treated fairly, but that there has been very little money for swimming pools.
He said Ravine Park Pool was demolished because it was an attractive nuisance that “could have got some kids killed.”
“I have no regrets on that portion of it, but we do need to figure out a way to recreate the things that we take down,” Mr. Bell said, emphasizing that the city is still recovering from a devastating recession.
He said residents have said that they did not want taxes raised and wanted services maintained.
“I’m not resistant — I work for you — but you’ve got to have the money to be able to do the things you want to do,” Mr. Bell said.
He said the administration’s focus has been on rebuilding the police and fire departments, and said the city has torn down 135 houses in East Toledo, rebuilt “seven or eight roads,” and built a new fire station.
A questioner cited a dramatic reduction in average home sale prices in East Toledo over the last 10 years, from $46,284 in 2004 to $15,159 for the first nine months of 2013.
Mr. Collins promised a reorganization of city government using the police department’s eight sectors to assign teams made up of a community service officer, a code inspector, and a nuisance abatement officer who will report to the mayor’s office quarterly.
Mr. Bell said home prices will rise when people have jobs that enable them to buy, which he said is the goal of his economic development outreach.
Mr. Bell predicted that the planned National Museum of the Great Lakes will open in the spring in the Marina District.
“People are starting to understand where Toledo is, and once they understand that portion of it, it makes it a whole lot easier to market,” Mr. Bell said. “We will keep pushing to be able to create some things.”
He cited the recent demolitions of the former Toledo Edison power plant, except for three smokestacks, and said there are discussions going on about turning them into “art pieces.”
“There are a lot of things that can happen over there. It’s just going to take a little time,” Mr. Bell said.
Mr. Collins agreed the park should be a good attraction, and said it is planned to include an electric railroad. But he was critical of the pace of development in the vacant riverfront space, saying Mr. Bell promised more than two years ago to give council design plans for a Marina District development and it has not occurred.
In response to a question about the administration’s aborted effort to buy 28 homes adjacent to the Collins Park water treatment plant, Mr. Collins said he came up with the idea, after being approached by Councilman Shaun Enright, for an ordinance to repeal most of the $700,000 that had been appropriated by council to buy up the residential property.
“That is a neighborhood that there was no justification for the convenience of contractors’ parking to destroy a neighborhood, because once those contractors leave, what is left, another blighted area of this city,” Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Bell said no eminent domain action was contemplated.
“We were negotiating with people who were willing to sell their houses,” Mr. Bell said. “The only reason we’re doing what we’re doing is we have an initiative that we have to meet to take care of our water needs.”
The event, co-sponsored by the East Toledo Club and Metro Press newspapers, drew about 50 people.